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New York City Theater

"Jack Goes Boating"
Public Theater

Jack and Connie are on the verge of losing their chance for happiness, just as Clyde and Lucy are struggling to keep their marriage from collapsing. Will Jack and Connie get together? Will Clyde and Lucy work through their problems? The answers may be obvious, but “Jack Goes Boating,” Bob Glaudini’s romantic relationship comedy in a LAByrinth Theater Co. production, is artful and amusing even when it seems thin and about to derail. But the work is too smart to be simplistic and, when both couples converge in a Walpurgisnacht of drugs, spoiled food, and aborted romance, the resulting combination of despair and healing is both funny and tender.

Jack and Clyde drive limos for Jack’s uncle’s company. Connie and Lucy work as telemarketers peddling a grief counseling program. Jack and Connie, introduced to each other by the other couple, are shy loners. Clyde and Lucy are lusty except for one thing: Lucy has had affairs and Clyde, try as he might, is not easily mollified. The title comes from Jack’s insecurities: about swimming, cooking, and boating, with drugs and music as his catalysts in his search for “positive vibes.”

As Jack, Philip Seymour Hoffman is appealingly unkempt, hangdog, and maladroit. As his opposite, the helpful Clyde (he offers his friend swimming lessons in deliciously comic scenes), Jack Ortiz is outwardly flip, inwardly pained. Beth Cole skillfully limns a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown (especially after a subway mugging), while Daphne Rubin-Vega again demonstrates that she can be both funny and sensuous at the same time. Peter DuBois directs with one eye on absurdity, the other on the sadness that permeates the evening. Spirited and kind of sweet, “Jack Goes Boating” so loves its misfit characters that audiences can’t help but go along.

-- David A. Rosenberg
March 19, 2007

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